I've temporarily replaced my vision board on my computer desktop. With what, you ask?
Well, after another good counseling session the other night, I did a lot of thinking about how to handle this particular time of life. Having too many options is freaking me out a bit. Not having an ultimate goal is making it hard for me to focus and get anything done.
But I know some things about myself. And one of those things is: I like having rules to follow.
I did well in school in part because I am very good at following directions. I crave direction. I like structure and predictability -- you do this, you get this. In college, I was in student organizations where we set goals for our organization and then achieved them. Even in the full-time jobs I've had (except this last one), figuring out what to do has been fairly straightforward -- I'm given assignments, I do them. In my personal life, I'm always working on projects that have a clear end result.
So having my life become one giant question mark -- What am I meant to do? Where do I start? Where do I want to end up? What would make me happiest? -- has thrown me a bit. And having so much unstructured time every day means that no matter what I'm doing, I always feel like I should be working on something else.
On reflection, I decided I needed to write myself some rules, and put them on my computer where I would see them every day.
Please note: These are not prescriptions for everyone who is unemployed. These are based on my own knowledge of myself and how I function best. Knowing, however, that they might be helpful to others, at least as a form of inspiration, I decided to share them here.
Jessica's Rules for Funemployment
- Volunteer. One-time for new things, longer-term commitments for things you know you care about. You'll feel less useless when your skills are being put to use, plus you'll meet more people, get a better grasp on what you want to do with your life, and have something to show for this time when you next interview.
- Set your standards low. You're not going to become Superwoman simply by virtue of having more time; if anything, you'll do less without having the usual time pressure.
- Follow your body clock. Get as much sleep as you need. When you're working, you'll have to fit your sleep schedule around your work schedule, but you don't have to conform to that now.
- Eat regular, healthy meals. Exercise when possible, but don't pressure yourself too much about it.
- Even if you don't know where you want to end up, start somewhere. Pick something. It's OK if it turns out to be the wrong thing. But give yourself a goal so you know which next steps to take.
- Remember the magic words "for now." You're working on editing a book for now. You're focusing on freelance work for now. You'd like to work on campus for now.
- Dabble. It doesn't make you unfocused; it makes you a scientist, trying to figure out where you're meant to be.
- Pay attention. What do you do that lights you up? What do you avoid doing?
- Schedule multiple things for the same day when possible. Otherwise you end up wasting time until it's time for the *one thing* you have to do that day. Balance scheduled days with days open for your own projects.
- Above all, be loving and serve others. Remember that your highest, universal calling is the most important one.
Numbers 5 and 7 might seem at odds with each other, but they're not. I need a specific goal to work toward to keep from feeling completely lost, but I also need permission from myself to try a lot of different things and not feel like that's wasted time.
Finally, I'm still using this prioritization technique, which helps me figure out which order to do things in, once I have in my head a bunch of things I'd like to be doing. It's a good way to remind myself that I can't do everything at once, and that the things I want to do actually mean something for my larger life goals.
How do these fit with your own experience, if you've been unemployed? What other advice would you give yourself in the same situation?